A House committee rejected by a 7-4 margin a bill that would create a restraining order that could restrict access to guns for people at risk of shooting themselves or others.
The bill was the Legislature’s main effort to reduce gun violence this session in the wake of the Florida school rampage that killed 17 and led to a national debate on gun-control.
Its sponsor, Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, began working on the bill shortly after the Feb. 14 Parkland massacre.
More than a dozen states are debating similar bills, Handy said, and supporters said the bill would close a gap in state and federal law that could allow people who exhibit a risk of gun violence to own and carry guns. Handy said the bill was an attempt to prevent suicides and mass shootings.
“Regrettably, Florida did not have the statute to stop the Parkland shooter,” he said. “This is maybe, maybe a piece of the puzzle.”
State lawmakers had gone back and forth over whether they’d take up gun control in the waning days of the legislative session. The House voted to allow Handy to have his bill written in the middle of the session, and its Monday hearing came with the Thursday midnight adjournment looming.
HB483 would have allowed a family member or roommate to ask a judge to issue an order allowing police to seize a person’s guns after presenting evidence of the danger he or she posed.
Maria Folsom said she wished the law were in place when her friend was recently shot in the leg and head by her spouse but survived.
The man was “very much intending to murder her with his guns that she couldn’t get taken away,” Folsom told the committee. “She’d gone to police, she’d filed paperwork and there was nothing done for her to try to save her life.”
Some committee members said they were concerned gun owners would be deprived of due process, noting that it would be difficult for people accused of being dangerous to prove that they weren’t.
Other opponents said lawmakers lawmakers were moving too quickly to regulate guns. Reps. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, and Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, said they were concerned the bill focused only on guns and not on other items that could be used to kill.
Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, said “in my estimation” when people use a gun to commit suicide they most often are using a borrowed gun.
“This bill does nothing to address that,” Lisonbee said. “It gives us a false sense of security if we truly think that this bill will save lives.”
More than 1,300 of the 1,527 gun deaths in Utah between 2009 and 2013 were suicides, according to state data.
Oregon is among the five states that already enacted similar laws. Residents there have filed 11 petitions for gun violence restraining orders since the law took effect Jan. 1. Two were denied, according to the state’s court records.
“The difficulty is this bill is coming late in the session,” said Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork.
McKell urged Handy to keep working on the bill in the remaining days of the session to see if he can address the committee’s concerns. In the meantime, the bill is in the House Rules committee and unless something changes soon, the idea would be studied in the upcoming 10 months before the 2019 legislative session.